Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (1972)

Could this be the longest movie title on this site? It's actually a line from a previous Ernesto Gastaldi - Sergio Martino collaboration, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH. This time we find them collaborating on a story that is, according to the credits, based loosely on The Black Cat. If Edgar Allan Poe had a penchant for crates of J&B, attractive ladies wearing very little, and motorcycle racing this could have been the most faithful adaptation of the story yet. Somehow, though, I suspect that he didn’t, although he might have enjoyed the decadent party held by decadent writer Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli) that opens this rather decadent movie. 
      Luigi lives in a lovely old mansion in the country where he hosts bizarre soirees that allows Sergio Martino to cram in both nude dancing (a tiny part for FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN and PHENOMENA’s Dalila de Lazzarro) and a horrible hippy song into the first ten minutes. Luigi is married to Irene (Anita Strindberg). His heavy drinking and womanising ways have caused her hairstyle to take on the appearance of a cormorant’s nest, and not a very house proud cormorant at that. Luigi’s having an affair with one of his ex-students from his teaching past who now works in a local bookshop. Romantic old devil that he is, he arranges to meet her in the local quarry after dark. Those of us who have seen this sort of thing before know that the chap in the far distance wearing black gloves and wielding a machete isn’t there for a bit of chiselling and pretty soon we’re witness to the first of several gory murders, including  Luigi’s maid and a local prostitute. 
      During all this Luigi drinks J&B, strokes his black cat ‘Satan’, drinks more J&B, beats Irene, and drinks yet more J&B. In fact the stuff is delivered to his house by the crate load by motorcycle scrambling enthusiast Dario (Riccardo Salvino). Half an hour in and disgruntled Edwige Fenech fans may be wondering where the top billed actress has got to. She finally appears in short skirt and short hairstyle to show Anita how it's done, and sets about getting into bed with almost everyone in the cast, including Dario, who manages to charm her into his sleeping bag in a dusty old attic after one especially muddy escapade while Luigi watches from the shadows. 
      Ivan Rassimov, in black leather coat and grey wig, has been watching from the shadows occasionally throughout the picture as well, but it won't be until just before the end that we get to find out why he’s there. By then naughty old Satan the cat has eaten Irene’s doves and had his eye cut out in homage to Poe, and we’ve had the typical final giallo fifteen minutes of everything going completely crazy before almost everyone ends up dead. Of course I’m not going to tell you who the killer is because that would spoil half the fun, suffice to say that the climax is every bit as wonderfully mad as giallo fans the world over have come to love.
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM isn’t the best of Martino’s gialli - that’s always going to be TORSO, with STRANGE VICE close behind and ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK a very creditable third, but it is worth watching for the ever lovely Edwige Fenech and one of Bruno Nicolai’s best scores. In an interview Martino has said that this is a movie about provincial Italy and the film certainly has a different, gloomier, less glamorous feel than more cosmopolitan fare such as ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK. The title doesn’t have any relevance to the story, the murders are horrible, the women are beautiful, the music is great and there are more shots of J&B in the first twenty minutes than in the whole running time of any other giallo (probably). What’s not to like? In fact, what’s not to love?

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